Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant
Location: Books & Such main office, Santa Rosa, Calif.
Pretty much everyone just wants to be liked, right? Why, we’ve all taken to heart one sentence from Sally Fields’ earnest Academy-Award acceptance speech: “You like me, you really like me.”
But authors seem especially prone to need to know that they’re not only liked but also respected by the publishing industry. Which points to one of the reasons authors forgo the option of self-publishing. They want to be able to say, “My publisher likes me, really likes me.”
But I was reminded of how compelling that need is when I read a recent Wall Street Journal article about Darcie Chan, who crafted a hit, self-published novel. The Mill River Recluse is her debut novel and has sold more than 400,000 copies–in seven months. According to the WSJ article, she’s receiving offers from foreign imprints, movie studios and audio-book publishers–without having sold a single physical copy of her book. And that’s the big rub for Chan.
Ms. Chan craves for one event to occur in her writing career that so far has eluded her: She wants a traditional publisher to produce a book–a physical book–Chan has written. Despite six film studios inquiring about movie rights and two foreign publishers bidding on the book, Chan “is holding off on such deals, for fear they might sabotage a potential contract with a domestic publisher,” according to WSJ.
“I have people writing me begging me for a hard copy,” she says, “book clubs and libraries calling me, and I don’t have a hard copy to provide for them.”
Chan is working on her second novel and hopes a traditional publisher will phone one day to say, “We like you, we really like you.”
As I read about Chan, I experienced a raft of responses. Here’s a short list:
- Obviously, this intense longing for a publisher to produce a physical book isn’t just about having a hard copy. It’s much more about Chan’s desire to have the traditional publishing experience. She wants a professional editor to work with her on her book and for her book to be available in bookstores and libraries. Yes, she could create a physical book, but it wouldn’t be the same, would it?
- Chan recognizes that a traditional publisher brings to bear certain elements the author can’t provide: Distribution to retail venues, placement in libraries, a marketing plan, an editorial eye, and a team of publishing professionals all focused on how to make her book a success.
- The desire for “legitimacy” can blind a person to the shortcomings of going the traditional route. I’m sure several traditionally-published authors reading this blog post are groaning over how much they wish they could say their book had sold 400,000 copies.
- Other self-published authors are gloating over how much money they’re making and how many fans they have. They feel plenty affirmed by their readers.
- But, really, Darcie Chan is like all of us, including me–she has a set idea of how to know if she’s really liked–and she hasn’t experienced that yet.
What’s your response to Chan’s saga?
Now, here’s the hard part, thinking about how this applies to you.
- What is the most affirming event that could occur for you, as a writer? To win a certain award (aka Sally Fields)? To sell a certain number of copies of your book? To get a multi-book contract? To hit a best-seller list (would any list do, or would it have to a specific list)?
- What might you sacrifice to achieve your goal? Might you, like Chan, put film options and audio versions on hold so as not to hurt your chances of making your goal? (Be honest!)
- How do you handle the disappointments this heartbreaking industry has handed you?
- How do you keep belief in your abilities going strong?